investing

Stocks That Will Get a Kick From the World Cup

The 2010 soccer championship should help shares of these four companies score some points.

Editor's note: The stock prices in this story have been updated since its original publication on June 1.

The names Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney may not ring a bell. But don’t worry. You needn’t recognize that trio of soccer superstars to appreciate the spectacle that begins June 11, when 32 teams battle it out in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We don’t mean the soccer spectacle; we mean the struggle among companies to use the tournament to capture the world’s attention.

The World Cup is like a month of Super Bowls for soccer fans. And if a company is global and smart, it can leverage the exposure into long-term sales growth. We found four that should achieve that goooooal!

Coca-Cola (symbol KO) has advertised in every World Cup since 1950. For this tournament, the company is pulling out all the stops with three marketing campaigns. To start, Coke is sponsoring a five-continent tour with the World Cup trophy (much like the Olympic torch relay). Coke will also launch a global ad blitz to show soccer fans the benefits of its Powerade sports drink. And the company has partnered with Wal-Mart to promote Coke products and the World Cup in its stores.

While Coke is ratcheting up the ad spending, it has a long-term plan to cut costs elsewhere. The company has proposed to buy its largest North American bottler in a $15-billion deal that is expected to save Coca-Cola $350 million over the next four years. The productivity gains, coupled with a dominant position in emerging markets and growing sales, gives UBS analyst Kaumil Gajrawala reasons enough to rate the stock a “buy.”

Coca-Cola shares could use a boost. The stock closed at $52.45 on June 10, down 12% from its 52-week high of $59.45 last December. It trades for 15 times the $3.45 a share that analysts expect the company to earn in 2010. Gajrawala figures Coke stock could hit $62 in the next year.

Walt Disney Co. (DIS) plans to capitalize on the millions of soccer fans who can’t afford a ticket to Johannesburg. Disney’s ESPN has partnered with Sony to offer World Cup coverage in 3-D. And any boost for ESPN is a big boost for Disney. ESPN generated 29% of the $36.1 billion in Mouse House revenue for the October 2009 fiscal year, and revenue from Disney’s cable business rose 9% in its latest-reported quarter (which ended April 3) compared with the same quarter a year earlier. Disney executives expect that the World Cup will be a ratings bonanza for ESPN, coming on the heels of its financially successful coverage of the NBA finals.

But Disney is showing strength aside from its sports-television business. Standard & Poor’s analyst Tuna Amobi rates Disney stock a buy based on the company’s improved revenue prospects from a revival in its movie business. That includes notable sequels from DreamWorks and Pixar, such as Shrek The Final Chapter and Toy Story 3, as well as upcoming films based on comic-book characters from the recently acquired Marvel. Disney stock, which closed at $34.11, looks reasonably priced. Shares trade for 15 times the $2.34 per share that analysts expect Disney to earn in year ending October 2011.

The Golden Arches are practically turning into the Golden Goals for the World Cup. McDonald’s (MCD) will feature menu items and restaurant promotions touting the tournament, including the sponsorship of a World Cup “Fantasy Football” online game. The World Cup is an ideal event for McDonald’s to flog because stores in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, where soccer is extremely popular, are where its revenues are growing the fastest.

Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst David Tarantino thinks McDonald’s can keep the global sales growth going for 2010 as the economy recovers. He rates McDonald’s stock outperform and gives it a 12-month target price of $80, up from $69.37. The stock trades for 15 times the $4.51 per share analysts estimate the company will earn in 2010.

Adidas is the official sports apparel sponsor of the World Cup. But like a goalie who makes an impossible, last-minute save, Nike is playing some mean defense. In its latest reported quarter, Nike (NIKE) saw its revenue in football-loving Brazil grow by over 60%, and Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay each delivered sales growth of about 30%. Sales of the company’s soccer-equipment brand, Umbro, more than doubled in the quarter.

Argus Research analyst Erin Smith thinks Nike is poised to deliver more earnings growth as its “other brands” division expands. This division, which includes Converse, Hurley, Cole Haan, Nike Golf and Umbro, generated $2.5 billion in revenue last year. Smith says these brands have plenty of opportunity to grow overseas -- especially in China. The shares, which closed at $71.75, have declined 8% from their recent high of $78 on May 12. Smith upgraded Nike stock from hold to buy on May 26 and gives it a 12-month target of $82.

And if Nike stock doesn’t get you excited, allow the company to get you pumped up about the World Cup itself. We dare you to watch Nike’s three-minute advertising epic, entitled Write The Future, and not catch the fever.

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